1 in 5 children are rejected mental health treatment

A ‘time bomb’ of serious mental health conditions is being created if vulnerable children don’t get early help 

Boy looking worriedOne fifth of all children referred to local specialist NHS mental health services, are rejected for treatment, according to new research. This includes children whose problems stem from abuse.

Statistics from 35 Mental Health Trusts across England show that of a total of

  • 186,453 cases referred by GPs and other professionals
  • 39,652 children did not receive help

A worrying picture also emerged from 6 mental health trusts who provided a breakdown of outcomes for children referred to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) who had problems associated with abuse or neglect. In these trusts 305 of the 1,843 – 1 in 6 – cases were rejected.

"If children don’t receive the right kind of help and support following a disclosure, the damage can last a lifetime and include post-traumatic stress disorder, depression or suicidal thoughts in adulthood"
Peter Wanless, Chief Executive


Lack of support creating ‘time-bomb’ of serious conditions


Children who have been abused or neglected could face serious long-term mental health problems because of a lack of support. 

Where reasons were given for not offering a service to children affected by abuse or neglect, it was often because they did not meet the high clinical threshold to qualify for treatment at a CAMHS. Not all children who have been abused will have a diagnosable mental health problem but many will still need therapeutic support to help them deal with their trauma.

Some evidence has raised concerns around access to this kind of support for children and young people following abuse. Strict access criteria, both for assessment and treatment, have been identified as significant issues in some areas.

Children and mental health

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Children's needs not met by support available

Children need to get the right sort of trauma-based therapeutic support early on in their difficult journey – so they can successfully move forward and re-build their childhood before chronic conditions take root.  

Peter Wanless, Chief Executive said:
“There’s been a huge increase in awareness about all forms of abuse in recent years. If children don’t receive the right kind of help and support following a disclosure, the damage can last a lifetime and include post-traumatic stress disorder, depression or suicidal thoughts in adulthood.

"Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services are just one part of the jigsaw and it’s clear the current range of support available doesn't meet the needs of many abused and neglected children. Desperate and frightened about their feelings, but unable to access services, some of these children call ChildLine.

"More and more victims of abuse are speaking out and we need to match their bravery with more specialist therapeutic support that is age-appropriate and there for children and young people, for as long as they need it.”

"I was raped when I was younger and since then my life has not been the same. My life turned upside down and I started suffering from depression. I cut myself to cope with the negative feelings inside me but they’re becoming more frequent. I use the CAMHS support service but it isn’t working. I need proper help but I don’t know to get it and its making me upset. "
Girl, 14

Further information

Mental health and suicidal thoughts

Get advice and support on helping a child id they're struggling with their mental health. 

Learn more

Signs, symptoms and effects of child abuse and neglect

The signs of child abuse aren't always obvious, and a child might not tell anyone what's happening to them. Sometimes children don't understand that what's happening is abuse. 
Find out more

How safe are our children? 2015

Our report compiles and analyses the most robust and up-to-date child protection data that exists across the 4 nations in the UK for 2015.
Find out more